Sunday, August 23, 2015

From 1807 to 1974, Six Abortion Deaths

Mary Ann Lafavor, the 15-year-old wife of Frank Lafavor, was "the victim of ... inhuman outrage". Frank had married his young bride over the objections of her family in March of 1870. The couple had settled as tenants on the farm of Thomas McIntyre. On August 15, Frank went with McIntyre to deliver wheat, leaving Mary Ann feeling unwell. She left the home herself at about 7 a.m. "The neighbors became alarmed at her absence from home and made search for her in every direction without success" until about midnight, "when she was discovered dragging herself around the corner of her dwelling more dead than alive." Two doctors came to her aid, and found her to be in critical condition, examined her, and and asked her if she had undergone an abortion. She admitted that she had taken some sort of abortifacient that day, but refused to say who she had gotten it from. "Everything possible was done to restore her, but after suffering intensely for a whole week and died on Tuesday morning last [August 23] at about eight o'clock." During the ensuing inquest, Mary Ann's mother testified that about five minutes before her death Mary Ann called out, "Tommy gave it to me! Tommy gave it to me!" McIntyre, was charged with her death.

Mrs. Anna May Klanenberg, age 24, died at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago from complications of an illegal abortion on August 23, 1906. Physician J. W. Mitchell was held by the coroner's jury, and indicted, but the source document doesn't indicate that there was ever a trial.

On August 23, 1910, Mrs. Louise Heinrich died in the New York apartment of Dr. Buffam and his wife, Vivian Buffam, a nurse. At the yo,r, Louise was under the care of Dr. Andre L. Stapler. Stapler cleared the case with Dr. O'Hanlon at the coroner's office, filling out a death certificate indicating that Louise had died from gastritis. Four years later, the Coroner's Office came under investigation concerning allegations that doctors there were taking bribes to cover up abortion cases. Louise's body was exhumed, an autopsy performed, and the real cause of death -- a criminal abortion -- was uncovered. Stapler was tried for manslaughter in Louise's death. 

Lydia Hoff of Jamaica, Queens, was charged with perpetrating a fatal abortion on 26-year-old Mrs. Violet King on August 11, 1916.  Violet, who died on August 23, left behind three children.

On August 23, 1927, 27-year-old Shellane Franklin, a Black woman, died at the scene of the crime from an abortion performed on her that day. Dr. Gordon Jackson, a white man, was held by the coroner on October 28. On December 15, he was indicted for felony murder. Shellane's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Twenty-five-year-old Dorothy Muzorewa, a nurse, had recently immigrated to the Chicago area from Zimbabwe. A jouralist's notes after her death tell the following story: Dorothy went to Women's Aid Clinic for a safe and legal abortion on June 15, 1974. The fetus didn't die, however, and clinic told her to return on August 22. She showed up bleeding and in pain. David Turow examined Dorothy, diagnosed an infection, and sent her home with prescriptions for tetracycline to control the infection and ergonovine to control the bleeding. Dorothy's husband said that he awoke on the morning of August 23 to find his wife bleeding profusely. Dorothy assured him that she was just menstruating, so he left for school. When he returned home, he was alarmed by Dorothy's bleeding and called an ambulance. Dorothy was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after noon. Only after her death did her husband, a theology student, learn of the pregnancy and abortion.

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